Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back In Europe

This week I have been in Oberhof, in the Thuringen region of Germany for the 4th World Cup. It has been beautiful! Sunny days and little wind have made for great training and racing conditions. The Oberhof biathlon stadium is quite the venue. Leaving the town of Oberhof, which is on top of a mountain (compared to the valley you can see below), towards the venue, you first pass the World Cup luge venue (the US Luge team arrives here this week), then an alpine hill, a SportHall and the new ski tunnel, and finally the biathlon venue. If you pass it, you then reach the ski jumps. All of this – all together; it is pretty cool, and unlike many sport venues that I have been to. And the Germans are really, really, really, into biathlon. On my jog up to the venue during the men’s sprint race earlier in the week I counted the transportation for out-of-town spectators that helped pack the venue - 60 greyhound-size buses! Before the women’s sprint race, I was the first women to ski into the stadium and range to prepare for Zero, and the crowd roared! They were just waiting for the first skier to come into the stadium to shake their noise makers, blow their horns, cheer loudly, wave their enormous flags, beat their drums, ring their bells, and when they could, do the wave from one end of the stadium to the next. This morning on my way to training at 9:30am ( 3 ½ hrs before the first race of the day) the stands were already starting to fill and the ski trails were fully lined with boisterous, excited, and crazy fans. And when the hometown German biathletes come through, it gets even deeper and louder. The pictures depict the massive crowd, but unfortunately my camera doesn’t record sound. Instead, have you seen the movie Gladiator? I think the only comparison to the immensity of the crowd and the volume of their noise is an ancient Roman stadium. [But I admit I’ve never been to a big time profession basketball, football, soccer, hockey or baseball game. I guess that could rival this.]

This is the view headed down to the course and start area. You can see the crowds filing in and filling up the stands, and the range in the background.

During the race, this where I would go to get to the start. Notice the crowds above on the left, and on the right a line of skis and ski testers preparing for the upcoming race.
Part of the course and stands prior to Sunday’s Men’s Mass Start. The Mass Start races are pretty exciting to watch because only the top 30 best athletes start. It is the best of the best battling it out.

One of our US waxrooms. In each location we get one or two wax rooms. They are usually the same size, if not a bit bigger than the NYSEF wax room at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

My race skis. I have a small stock at the moment, and here they are ready to travel to the next venue with our wax techs. I work with the team's wax techs before each race to figure out which pair will be the fastest pair for the course and snow condition.

I admit, the race atmosphere is fun in the beginning, but to really get to watch the good parts of the races, the view from my bed of the TV is best. These shots are during the men’s Sprint race earlier this week.

Here a Swede (another Johnson) just finished his standing stage. At the bottom of the screen you can see two of our American men in the standings – Jay Hakkinen and Tim Burke.

These close shots offer a great view of some of the best shooters, their style, their speed and precision.

Here is a short clip of a young German on the “big” hill on the course. You can see the exuberant crowd behind him the whole way.

I really enjoyed racing in Oberhof this week and look forward to next year. I did not shoot that well, but was happy with my skiing. It leaves me with some important steps to improve upon in the range and motivation to continue to progress on the ski tracks. I’ve been the only US woman here this week, but will be joined by one more for the 5th World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany, and a full team of 5 for the 6th in Antholz, Italy.

This is the first of many weeks in surrounded by the German language, which I promise to myself to learn at some point. For right now, I can be polite: danke = thank you, danke shon = thank very much, and when I really need to express it, vielen danke = thousand thanks, bitte = please, and my room number zwei-hundra-seiben = 207.

View from room 207.

I am posting this while online at the venue, but will soon jog back to my hotel, eat, pack, relax and get ready to travel on Monday. I hope this finds you all well in Placid! It was a lot of fun to see some of you out on the ski trails while I was home – and to get to share my good news with youJ

Take care and I will post again next week.

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